3 Tips To Getting Over Your Holiday Writing Hurdles (The Emotional Rollercoaster, part 1)

 

00 santa hat writer
A visual representation of me if I were a lady in a Santa hat. Even I don’t get this one.

I expected to get a ton of writing done at Christmas last year. NOTHING got done!

 

 

NOTHING!!!

 

 

Writer’s slump? Maybe.

 

Don’t you HATE it when the words aren’t flowing, or you can’t get motivated to write? Or other writing related hurdles?

 

The thing is, it passes.

 

Think about how difficult it was to share your work with another person the first time. Hopefully they were nice no matter how good or bad it was. Whether it was shared on Facebook, with friends, a spouse, a critique group, SHARING was a mountain BEFORE you did it – and now we look back and see it wasn’t such a big deal.

 

businesswoman-pointing-gun-to-computer-laptop-sitting-office-desk-desperate-stressed-young-attractive-having-problems-47931112
Write, damn you!

Somehow, we got through it.

 

Lots of hurdles are that way. You just knew about some of them, like publishing or getting reviews. Maybe you had an idea of what writer’s block was, but it hadn’t ever happened, or you never had to push through a case of lack of motivation all by yourself.

 

Those are all hurdles, too, and they seem HUGE when you are in them.

 

Worry not.

 

There are ways over your WRITER HURDLE just like any other kind of hurdle. Here are a few suggestions.

 

  1. Down in the dumps? Help somebody else. Volunteer at a soup kitchen or help another author with their problem. Misery loves company but in this case your input might help them get past their hurdle. It feels good to help. You want to feel good. I feel great every time one of you says that I helped you, or thanks me, whether you do it in a comment here or in a private message (and I get a LOT of those). They all feel great! (And don’t worry, I’ll be asking every one of you to buy a book pretty soon to show how much I really helped you.)

 

03 art and images (5)
Oh, it’s a compliment, eh?

Remember, when you help a writer friend and they say “no” to your suggestion, that’s a good sign. They instinctively have a better one percolating. Or they’re an asshole. Hold back the desire to stab them. “No” is good and so is “yes.” Talking about it with a sympathetic ear that belongs to a writer makes a big difference. Normal people don’t understand. Find that ear. Talk to it. (Did you just get a flash of a big ear sitting on a table at a coffee shop and you were talking to it, with no person attached? I did. Weird.)

 

  1. Writer’s block? Do a flash fiction challenge. Muscles atrophy and so does your sharpness as a writer. Don’t let it. You can force yourself to write something that is just for fun and it can restart you engine.

 

  1. Stuck on a plot point? Talk, or think up an alternate ending.
    man-reading-book
    Ooh, that’s GOOD!

    Send in your problem. Maybe we’ll air the options here and when people say “Ooh that’s good!” – WOW, the wind goes right back into your sails.

 

What else is bothering you? Let me know. There are lots of smart people here. No need to suffer in silence.

 

Most important, realize: with a few exceptions, you are not a robot. You have emotions or your stories would read like instruction manuals for Legos. This is a different business from a lot of others because it is so personal (more on that in part 2), and that can magnify things, so don’t let it. Learn to develop a thicker skin. But until then, ASK FOR THAT HELP.

 

Everybody here wants to help you.

 

Let us.

.

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

 

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

 

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

 

 

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE: PLOT POINT

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

If you wanna get right to the challenge skip down to “FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE!” and champagne Leo.

.

As most of you know, plots are either very easy or very hard.

You take a trip to Italy and see a girl on a train? Bingo! Three months and 100,000 words later you’ve written a Pulitzer Prize winner (it could happen) –  definitely your best book yet!

By contrast, you take a vacation to the Florida Keys and become convinced the guy who rented you the house is a psychotic madman with a cool boat who will take you scuba diving – to murder you!

And, well… three months later its whole story line consist of these seven words: Rental house owner wants to murder me. With the supporting phrase: “His friend on the boat looked squirrely, too.”

They ARE tasty, though.
Margaritas ARE tasty, though.

Yeeeeeah, maybe that one’s not going anywhere. Chock it up to too many margaritas.

Which is why I am convinced: we do NOT pick our plots, OUR PLOTS PICK US!

Or at least for this writing challenge, that’s my theory.

Luckily, thanks to a Random Plot Generator, we no longer have to wander in the darkness. We can now allow our plots to quickly and easily find us!

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to go to the Random Plot Generator and allow the plot gods to speak to you! Yes, it says movie plot generator; just ignore that. Do not question the will of the gods.

EXAMPLE of where your plot idea will be. CLICK  TO ENLARGE
EXAMPLE of where your plot idea will be. CLICK TO ENLARGE

YOU must then write 1000 words on the topic the gods have chosen for you, AND you have to include the random phrase IN the piece.

Yeah! Not so easy now is it, tough guy???

Um… and that’s about it.

You have one week to complete the assignment. Link to it here by noon on 11/20/2015 EST. We’ll have more of these challenges on Fridays through the holidays, unless there’s a mass revolt like we almost had over the haiku scandal. (I thought haikus were supposed to rhyme.)

It's the holidays - almost. Relax and have some fun with a Flash Fiction Challenge. And a margarita.
It’s the holidays – almost. Relax and have some fun with a Flash Fiction Challenge. And a margarita.

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE!

If you read this far, you have to participate. Basically I’m looking for something around 1000 words. It can be less, it could be more. If you’re closing in on 3000 words and you haven’t really nailed it yet, think about a little editing.

Take a deep breath and click on your Random Plot Generator: ONE click per player!

http://plot.kitt.net/

THE RULES

  1. You write 1000 words more or less on the topic
  2. Post it on your blog
  3. Reference us on your blog and this challenge so your regular readers don’t think you’ve gone rental-house-owner-in-the-Keys-style psycho.
  4. Post the link to your story here in the comments section.
  5. You have until Friday 11/20/2015 at 12 noon EST, that’s Tampa Florida US of A time, for those of you who live elsewhere.

That’s it! GET TO IT!

.

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

Endurance: Don’t Quit =/= Never Take Breaks

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

A critique partner and friend recently noted that I’m looking even more prolific the past few days, putting out a few chapters of my story for inquiring eyes at the critique website.

Kinda sorta.

Now, you know I am a BIG advocate of WRITE EVERY DAY, but I recognized something that you need to know as the holidays approach (you’ll finish the big battle scene over Christmas break, right Jenny?) or as you transition into a new job (several of you) where you’ll have more writing time.

Currently, I am in the middle of a two week span where my wife is traveling for work Monday through Friday, and since our young daughter can’t tell time yet and has been fighting a minor cold… I can stick the little one in bed as soon as the sun goes down (6:30pm) and I have LOTS of time to write! Zero family time requirements!

Stop looking at me.

Gone, just like that.
Gone, just like that.

Also, since my wife vetoed the inclusion of the witch in my current WIP turning into a dragon and escaping, I saved about 30,000 words (maybe) about a big dragon hunt.

I do miss my dragon, but that deletion allowed me to realize that… MY STORY WAS ALMOST DONE!

I’m like, wait, if there’s no dragon hunt, then this comes next, and that, and that, and… I’m finished!

I was like, I might be able to finish this story during the two weeks my wife is gone!

(Love you, honey! Miss you! XOXO!)

And what are markers? Not felt pens? Where is all this explained???
And what are markers? Not felt pens? Where is all this explained???

Of course, I’m midway through that fourteen day span now, and I’m not sure the whole “finish the story in two weeks” thing will happen at all, but a few days ago it seemed possible. Because getting the kid up and dressed and fed and to school on time – and oh, homework (what is with this Common Core shit? I am totally lost. Add the objects and put the markers in the five frame? What the fuck is a five frame???), pick her up after school and eat dinner (I won’t lie there, it was ALL fast food and junk. Cheetos for breakfast. Stop looking at me. I’m usually the one forcing her to eat the carrots and green beans, okay? Just, you know… not this week.)

I was actually thinking about this yesterday, saying if I had 5 straight hours a day, or possibly six, times at least 10 days, plus my usual writing time on weekends (thank you, dance class) would I be able to get the book finished? That’s a lot of uninterrupted writing time, and as the end of the story nears, I get excited and want to write more anyway.

or a big mug of beer since I didn't have a picture of a bucket
or a big mug of beer since I didn’t have a picture of a bucket

And at first I thought yes, but as I went along each day I thought maybe not, but I couldn’t understand why. It was like a bucket got dumped out and needed time to fill back up.

To be crude, I actually thought it was like sex. Feel free to skip down a paragraph to protect your sensibilities. Every guy can certainly have an “O” once a day every day for a week, no problem; but trying to have seven in a row, more or less back to back, while certainly possible and with the right partner and stimulation I am willing to try, after about number three he just wouldn’t be, you know… delivering much, and by number seven maybe not anything at all. Certainly not like the first one. Most of you readers are ladies; feel free to sympathize with this dilemma.

Okay, it’s safe to start reading again, you innocent ones. And I thought the bucket analogy would be better than the sex analogy, but the sex one actually came to me first.

Must... finish... story!
Must… finish… story!

Now, that doesn’t mean I can’t still knock out my story, but I ended up pacing myself a little more, or actually allowing myself to recuperate more between writing sessions. But like working out and building a muscle (or having sex, I guess) if it’s fun and you enjoy it, you can build up your writing endurance. That… actually sounds like I’m still talking about sex stuff. I’m not, honest.

Probably the discipline analogy applies more to building muscles, but the sex analogy applies to the fun of doing the writing. The more you do, the more you are capable of doing. The longer you go, the longer you are able to go. Yeah, it all sounds like sex stuff now doesn’t it? Sorry. I shouldn’t have gone there. Try to keep your filthy mind out of the gutter.

These are probably habits that can be developed like anything else, and I’m not sure I realized that until this week.

Maybe not this much, but you get the idea.
Maybe not this much, but you get the idea.

First, realize that writing drains you! Emotionally, creatively, maybe physically. I mean, typing isn’t super exerting, but thinking and rereading and hovering over the keyboard, you might get a sore back or a headache. But when you run through an amazingly creative idea and pursue it to its end, you may need time to think up and develop the next idea for the story, or to properly smooth out the transitions, even when you’re “in the zone.”

Which is kinda DUH, of course, but I hadn’t thought about it because my writing time, like yours, is usually limited.

BUT!

Like muscles or habits, we can build them up over time. Monday, I wrote for about six hours. Six glorious, uninterrupted, creative hours. It was pure genius, flowing from my brain through my fingertips to the computer. Tuesday, I wrote a little less, but I was like: Do it! You may never get a chance like this again! They’ll teach her how to tell time in school eventually, and daylight savings time will rear its ugly head again one day! Write! Wriiiiiiiite!!!

Um, where was I?

Oh yeah, habits and endurance.

Well, maybe that last one...
I get up at 4am to write. All my author friends hate me.

So while we have all probably created some cute little writer-ey habits, like you always squeeze in an hour for your blog after dinner on Thursdays, or how you get up an hour early to work on your novel, or how each night before bedtime I read by the fireplace to my adoring daughter (it could happen), we have to realize we can add to that writing muscles and increase our endurance.

Just as breaks are necessary for the body to rebuild the fatigued muscles, increasing the weight we’re lifting allows us to eventually add more weight. So writing a little more each day will allow us to be capable of writing more each day.

To find the time for that, check out my other posts where we discuss how to find time to write, HERE and HERE.

But when you have that time, use it, and be prepared to increase the endurance. Because after lifting 20 lbs all week, lifting 10 is easy-peasy. So you can lift your 10 faster, get more reps in, whatever.

or going crazy because relatives visit and the kids are out of school
or going crazy because relatives visit and the kids are out of school

If you get the time to write more, which a lot of us do over the holidays or as we change jobs to a more writing-friendly scenario – and you’re all trying to do that, I know – realize there will be a lag time, a learning curve, to your new situation. Allow yourself time to adjust to the new schedule and don’t expect to go at it 8 hours a day every day from the jump. It may take a week or more to build your endurance up to being able to write four or eight hours every day.

And it may be incredibly hard not feeling guilty while you don’t write each hour of your new schedule. Don’t! No guilt!

Give yourself the time to build up to it. If you were trying to run a mile and hadn’t ever run further than to the fridge during a commercial TV break, your spouse wouldn’t expect the Boston Marathon on Friday. You won’t run a mile today and again tomorrow and again the next day. You have to build up to it, so run a half mile or a quarter mile or maybe just 100 yards today, and probably not even that much tomorrow, but as you stay after it, you’ll be hitting a mile or more soon enough.

I wrote all these over Christmas break. Oh, you gained 5 lbs and made cookies? YOU ROCK!
I wrote all these over Christmas break. Oh, you gained 5 lbs and made cookies? YOU ROCK!

Only you can tell what’s enough, so give yourself what you need as the holidays or new job approach, and don’t set unrealistic expectations, but as you reach success with your goals, brag about it! To us and everyone who’ll listen – which won’t be your family and friends because they have no idea if 3000 words in a day is good or not. So tell us. We get it.

I wrote this for you because I needed to grieve for my deleted dragon, and also because I needed a break from my awesome WIP. Now I’m warmed up and ready to bang out another marathon session. And we finally got past it sounding like weird sex talk… right until that last line. Darn. So close.

.

Your humble host.
Your humble host.

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.